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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 43, October 18, 2014

Remembering Bhupesh Gupta on his Birth Centenary

Monday 20 October 2014

October 20 this year will mark the birth centenary of the legendary Communist parliamentarian Bhupesh Gupta, the longest serving Member in the Rajya Sabha —he was in the Upper House of Parliament for more than 29 years at a stretch since its inception till he breathed his last in Moscow on August 6, 1981. Indeed there is no gainsaying that he was the tallest Communist MP overshadowing such stalwarts like S.A. Dange, A.K. Gopalan, Hiren Mukerjee, Indrajit Gupta. He was looked upon as an institution rather than an individual.

Bhupesh was born on October 20, 1914 at Itna in Mymensingh district (now in Bangladesh). He joined the freedom movement in his early years and was active in the revolutionary group called “Anushilan”. He was arrested first in 1930 and then twice in 1931. He was arrested again in 1933 and was kept in detention till 1937. He passed both the IA and BA examinations while in detention. He was then sent by his father to England as the latter wanted to keep him away from the revolutionary movement. But there too he took part in the Indian students’ struggle for freedom. He came in touch with the Communist Party of Great Britain and joined the party group of Indian students. While in England, he did his bar-at-law and was called to the bar from the Middle Temple.

Returning to India in 1941, he devoted himself full time to the work of the country’s communist movement. He worked in 1941 at the underground headquarters of the party. He was one of the founders of the Friends of the Soviet Union (FSU) in 1941.

As secretary of the Jana Raksha Samiti, he did a tremendous organising work during the Bengal Famine of 1943 and in the task of rehabilitation. He was also a founder of the People’s Relief Committee. He defended in courts the valiant accused of the Tebhaga peasant struggle in Bengal. He also defended workers in industrial cases including the TELCO workers of Jamshedpur in 1946 in the compulsory adjudication under the then Defence of India Rules. 

In 1948, he went underground in Calcutta when the party was banned. He was arrested in 1951 and detained till April 1952. He was elected to the West Bengal Provincial Committee in 1947 and appointed chairman of the editorial board of the party’s Bengali daily, Swadhinata, in 1951. 

In 1952, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha and since then was its member till his death in 1981. He was acknowledged as one of the ablest, most alert and competent parliamentarians. He made several exposures in Parliament, including those of Haridas Mundhra, M.O. Mathai (wherein he highlighted the revelations on Mathai made in the piece ‘The Story of a Gadfly’—written by N.C.—in the India Press Agency feature news service). He was a dogged champion of the cause of the working people and giving voice to their complaints, hopes and aspirations in the forum of Parliament was his mission. Known and universally respected even by his political adversaries, he earned a niche of his own in India’s parliamentary democracy. 

It must also be underscored that in his lifetime he championed the cause of close understanding with the progressive sections within the Congress primarily in the parliamentary forum. 

On June 22, 1977, when the Rajya Sabha celebrated its 100th session and 25th anniversary, Bhupesh Gupta was specially felicitated.

Bhupesh was elected to the Central Committee of the CPI at its Third Congress at Madurai in December 1953-January 1954. At the Palghat Congress of the party in 1956 he was elected to the Central Committee and thereafter to the party’s Polit-Bureau. Since then he was always elected to all the leading bodies of the party. At the time of his death he was a member of the Central Executive Committee and one of the Secretaries of the CPI National Council. 

He was the editor of New Age, the party’s central organ, from 1954 to 1957 and then again from January 1966 to his last.

After his death the then General Secretary of the CPI, C. Rajeswara Rao, said: “We did not know the amount of work he took upon himself in Parliament and outside for the sake of the party.”

Bhupesh Gupta was also widely known outside the country, especially in the international communist movement. He attended all the international conferences of the communist movement being a member of the CPI delegation at the 1957, 1960 and 1969 meetings of the world communist movement. He was a part of the CPI delegation that visited Peking under the leadership of the then party General Secretary, Ajoy Ghosh, in 1959 and met Mao Tsetung there.  

The CPI National Council has urged the Union Government to release a postage stamp in honour of Bhupesh Gupta to mark his birth centenary. 

On his death Mainstream, in its issue of August 15, 1981, wrote:

“Bhupesh’s eminence as an outstanding parliamentarian has passed legend. This is not due only to the duration of his uninterrupted tenure of nearly three decades in the Rajya Sabha. He was the most wuthering front-bencher whom neither the formidable array behind the Treasury Bench nor a tension-charge House could ever silence. Never claiming to be a sophisticated orator, Bhupesh was a hard-hitting speaker, never hesitating to call a spade a spade; alert and vigilant, he marshalled his facts and figures with meticulous care and used them with deadly effect, interspersed with sallies and retort. Indira Gandhi could not have put it better than when she said that Parliament would not be the same again in the absence of Bhupesh Gupta.

“Bhupesh’s renown came from his memorable innings in Parliament, because that was the main theatre of his political battles, not the arena of mass action; but he never failed to sustain the movement outside by his tireless championing of the very same movement within the precincts of the Rajya Sabha. Bhupesh Gupa was the living refutation of the worn-out canard that Communists are out to destroy the parliamentary system. 

“The sterling quality which won him the love and respect, the affection and esteem of one and all was his ascetic life and living, a spartan to his very marrow—a quality rapidly getting rare in our fast polluted and polluting public life. His utter dedication to his political convictions, unsullied by any compromise overt or covert for material gains, won him admiration from many who might not have subscribed to his political credo. The spontaneous mourning, cutting across all barriers of parties, at the passing away of Bhupesh Gupta once again underlines the commonality of this nation’s political culture which rises above all differences in recognising the true worth of a dedicated soldier for the emancipation of India’s teeming humanity.”

While remembering Bhupesh Gupta on his birth centenary and as a token of our tribute to his abiding memory, we are reproducing here the speech he delivered in the Rajya Sabha on June 22, 1977 when he was felicitated on completing 25 years of meritorious service as a Member of the Upper House of Parliament (which too was observing the 25th anniversary of its birth), a tribute to Bhupesh by N.C. (that appeared in Mainstream’s August 22, 1981 issue) and another tribute to him by the late Abu Abraham, the eminent cartoonist and writer as well as nominated Member of the Rajya Sabha (that was published in The Sunday Observer of August 30, 1981).